The Promotion You Don’t Want – Running Your Own Race


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What’s next for your career in the next year? Maybe advancement up the leadership ladder is in the cards for you. Maybe it is not. An important question for you to ask is,

 “Do I really want that promotion?”

The idea of career advancement is filled with enticements like greater responsibility, increased scope of influence, and financial gain. As you weigh up aiming for a more senior position ask yourself,

  1. Will this job leverage my strengths and interests?

I once worked with a research scientist who was passionate about developing technologies that helped his customers succeed. At one point his organization asked him to take an executive position that would involve people management. At first he was tempted to take the position but after much thought declined the promotion. He did not want to leave his first love, research and development.

  1. Is there more of a downside than a positive benefit?

A move to the top of an organization may compromise other aspects of your life. Longer hours, more travel, and increased stress may pull you away from your family or community contributions. In other cases you may be asked to bury a dying organization when your real passion is exploring new vistas with vibrant business models.

  1. Are there other possibilities for my life outside of work?

Your culture tells you that promotion is desirable. But ask effective senior executives what really satisfies them in their jobs and a completely different answer emerges. I hear things like, “I was able to lead my company to where it made a greater contribution” “I helped make our organization a great place to work.” “I love big challenges that draw on all my abilities” Or consider folks who break frame with the “work hard until you die or retire” life plan and

  • Volunteer with an NGO in a third world country
  • Buy a sailing boat and go around the world
  • Choose a simpler life style by downsizing their lives
  • Have children and become a stay-home parent.

So in your race to the top check to see if you are running in the right lane. The key is to run your own race and not the one dictated by family, culture, or the fact that people you respect want to promote you.

Knowing what fits for your life is the path to realizing  a calling and not just a job. And that makes all the difference.


About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
This entry was posted in Refusing a Promotion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Promotion You Don’t Want – Running Your Own Race

  1. So true Cedricj. I spent 15 years on the corporate ladder, believing that if I didn’t get promoted at least every 3 years I was slipping behind. As a result took some jobs which were a terrible fit for my skills and had a bad impact on my life overall. The most obvious example of this I come across is great salespeople who turn out to hate being sales managers.

    • cedricj says:

      I always appreciate your insightful remarks Michael. Obviously you have found a calling and not just a job in your present venture. And that makes all the difference.

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